(I wrote this article a few years ago but I'm referring back to it as my patients and I look to let go of some habits with the fresh air of January...-Kirsten)
It's January! A time of year when many people think about changes they'd like to make in support of the life they'd like to live. Making healthy changes is great - when it's done with love and in a way that's sustainable! Enjoy the video version with a TCMTalk on this topic!
So you've decided to let go of some habits that don't nourish you - or cultivate some that do. Great! One of the keys to sustainable change is enlisting support. While you're getting cheered on by the people in your support network, you can also add some herbal cheerleaders to the mix. I've rounded up some herbal and essential oil allies that can give you a boost at some of the changes you might be making this month.
(Important message: herbs and essential oils are powerful medicine! This article is not intended to diagnosis or treat you. I strongly recommend that you enlist the support of a licensed physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine or other qualified professional so you can fully experience the benefits of herbal medicine!)
Quitting: smoking, alcohol, sugar and other substances
Acupuncture and acupressure are very helpful in reducing withdrawal symptoms, and your TCM physician can also prescribe a customized herbal formula for you that can reduce anxiety, withdrawal and cravings, no matter what substance you're eliminating. Generally, regulating the flow of energy in the body is the goal, as we support the body through the discomfort of cravings and learning to produce the feel-good chemicals we relied on our drug of choice for.
Easy to access herbs to try at home during this time include: spearmint leaf, dried orange peel, cinnamon, clove, lemon balm and fennel. Look for these herbal allies in a pre-made blend, or make your own tea with bulk herbs (try a tablespoon each of the leafy herbs, and a teaspoon of the denser ones). You can also try an infusion bath - use tea bags or cheesecloth to steep herbs in your bath water.
Essential oil helpers include carrot seed oil (especially for marijuana), roman chamomile, lavender and lemon (this duo is especially good for sugar cravings) Here's some guidance on different methods of applying essential oils.
Healthy Habits: regular exercise and quality sleep
Looking to make exercise a habit this year? Chinese medicine, broadly speaking, helps you have more energy by either boosting insufficient energy, or moving stuck energy. Try energy boosters like ginseng, jujube, Chinese yam, goji berries and reishi mushrooms, or energy movers like dried orange peel, fennel and cardamom. Essential oils like patchouli and grapefruit help move and transform energy as well.
Herbal helpers for restful sleep include mimosa flower, lemon balm, lavender blossom, chamomile and zizyphus (jujube seeds). A supplement like Natural Calm is an easy alternative to traditional sedating herbs made from oyster shell and fossilized bones. Essential oils known as sleep aids include lavender, sandalwood, mandarin, chamomile and ylang ylang.
Attitude Adjustment: self-love and self-discipline
Thinking about a new attitude this year? Support some self-love with heart-opening herbs like mimosa flower, zizyphus, or the traditional formula, gan mai da zao tang: licorice root, jujube fruit and wheat berries. Essential oils for self-love include patchouli, rose, geranium and ylang ylang.
Self-love starts with self-care: if you're trying to amp up your self-discipline and keep your health a priority, herbs and essential oils to firm your resolve include walnuts, fenugreek, black sesame seeds, and essential oils of rosemary, ginger and vetiver.
If you have questions about using herbal allies in the new year, or would like some help finding a Physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine in your area, email me!
Some sources used in this article:
- Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Revised Edition, Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble.
- Clinical Aromatherapy, Peter Holmes
- Healing with the Herbs of Life, Lesley Tierra
- Materia Medica of Essential Oils, Jeffrey Yuen